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Art and the First “Homosexuals”

Online / Exhibition-Related

Wednesdays, November 8 – December 6, 6 – 8pm


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Moulin Rouge (detail), 1882. National Gallery, Prague. © HIP / Art Resource, NY

$220; members $198
(4 classes; no class Nov 22)

About the Class

Before 1869, “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” didn’t exist. There was just sexuality, and it was either illicit or acceptable, the latter of course dedicated to reproductive purposes within marriage.

But in 1869, the word “homosexual” was coined, concretizing an emerging binary system that increasingly placed homo and hetero on opposite sides. Art is the largest and most sensitive archive of this fundamental shift in human relations, and in this class, we will explore an emerging homosexual identity in and through its representations. Beginning in the early 19th century and continuing into the early decades of the 20th, we will examine homosexual representation globally, with roughly equal attention to all genders. Central to this story will be the violence that a homo/hetero binary wrought on different indigenous forms of sexuality in the wake of Euro-American colonization, with the paradoxical result that some of the most open countries with regard to same-sex relationships are now among the most closed.

This course connects to themes in our fall exhibition, Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris.

The class is online-only. More about online classes.

Barnes classes will:

  • Increase your understanding of art-related concepts.
  • Increase the ways you think critically about art.
  • Improve your ability to communicate about art.
  • Deepen your appreciation for cultures and histories outside your own.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Moulin Rouge, 1882. National Gallery, Prague. © HIP / Art Resource, NY


Jonathan D. Katz

Katz, a pioneering figure in the development of sexuality and gender studies in art history, directs the Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo and is a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania. An active curator as well as a scholar, Katz has written extensively on postwar American art.

Recent Barnes Class Testimonials

“[The] professor was highly engaging, facilitated excellent discussions, and [was] very knowledgeable. I learned a lot about teaching art history from watching her.” Matisse and Picasso with Martha Lucy

“The instructor [was] very empathetic and knowledgeable [and] created moments of sharing across students who participated actively in discussion.” Art and Literature of the Harlem Renaissance with Michael Williamson

“I am not an artist and prior to this course I had not thought about what an artist might be 'thinking,' as opposed to 'feeling.' I loved this course and plan to immerse myself in color theory.” Visualizing Memory with Lucas Kelly

“The instructor was exceptionally well prepared and challenged us with profound questions. This was a graduate degree caliber course.” The Queer 1890s with Ty Vanover